Question: when was the last time you got your whole family together in one place? Even if you’re lucky enough to have some members of your slightly-more extended family living nearby, it’s likely been a while (or maybe never!) since you’ve seen your great uncle’s nephew, or your fifth cousins, twice removed.
That’s why family reunions can be refreshing—a gathering that brings all your loved ones together again. Familiar faces might look a bit different and children may have sprouted a few inches, but memories and good times are just as easy to make as ever. You could even meet long-lost members of your clan for the very first time.
If you’re in the midst of family reunion planning, get inspired with our family reunion ideas, from games for the whole lineage to suggestions on invitation wording.
How do you organize a family reunion?
Before the family fun can begin, it’s important to have a plan in place. Sure, your unpredictable uncle might throw things for a loop, but it can’t hurt to try, right? Here are a few tips to help you build out the structure of the day before he crashes the party (or enhances it, depending on who you ask).
Pick a theme that everyone will love
While family is the driving force of the get-together, focusing on a specific theme can really bring it to life. If the event is scheduled to span multiple days, you could center each one around different themes.
Here are a few family reunion themes to ponder in case you’re stuck:
— A nod to tradition: Though the young’uns might cringe at the mere mention of the word, tradition isn’t just for older relatives. You could encourage the seasoned seniors to pass down family recipes (the perfect way to gauge the best future cooks) or to teach the kids games they used to play. But you can also make room for new traditions by inviting the younger generations’ eccentricities to the party, too.
— A friendly battle of the decades: Have everyone represent the decade they were born in, from the way they dress to the food they bring. Highlight some of the best films, actors, or albums from each period and vote on the GOAT (greatest of all time). There’s no better way to settle “back in my day” debates than to be an ambassador for your own.
— Getting into character: Family reunions are about getting reacquainted, so why not leave the performative aspects to a character role? Stage a murder mystery that will get people making inquiries and working together. Travel back in time and drink from horns as you oversee a toy sword tournament. Putting fun first helps build camaraderie that translates into (or strengthens) familial bonds.
Pick a family-friendly location
Just as important as how you structure the event is deciding where it’ll all take place. Hosting in your own home is an option, of course, and likely the best for more thematic reunions. But it’s far from the only option.
— Book a venue: Lodges and resorts can often feel like a home away from home, complete with cozy hearths and home-cooked meals. Some will even help you plan the whole affair by chipping in on everything from decorations to catering.
— Take a cruise: Unless one of your cousins gets notoriously seasick, why not take your reunion to the open ocean? Like pirates, you’ll discover hidden treasure while you’re out on the high seas—not chests of gold and jewels (presumably), but memories.
—Go camping: Corralling your loved ones together amidst the sights and sounds of the great outdoors is an adventurous alternative for nature-loving families. Pitch a tent, stoke the fire, and spend the evening gobbling down s’mores while exchanging memories. If not everyone is up for roughing it, glamping could offer just the right balance between rustic and restful.
Feast on family recipes
Whether it’s your grandparents’ delectable meatballs or a home-crafted brew, reunions wouldn’t be complete without plenty of food and drink. Here are a couple of menu ideas that’ll please even the pickiest of eaters.
— Offer “survey” snacks: Full-table meals bring the whole family together, but you can’t forget to include a scattering of snacks—even better, snacks everyone loves. The best way to find out what those light bites are is to survey everyone beforehand by adding a question to your Paperless Post invitation. Then, adorn a few side tables with all of the family favorites.
— Make it personal with a potluck: You might be privy to a couple of secret family recipes, but don’t be afraid to turn the event into a potluck. Ask your parents to make that surprisingly good meatloaf that they’ve never divulged the details of. Your cousin, the sophisticated sommelier, can take charge of pairing the right red, white, or rosé with each course. Even the kids can get involved by decorating some homemade cookies for dessert.
— Teach an old dog new tricks: There’s nothing quite like a beloved family recipe—except for the people who can’t eat it. Whether it’s a vegan who can’t chow down on the aforementioned meatloaf or an auntie who’s allergic to almonds, doing a little research can make all the difference when it comes to putting a new spin on an old recipe. Veggie loaf, anyone?
“Grill Time” Flyer by Paperless Post.
How do you make a family reunion special?
What’s going to make a family reunion most special, of course, is just having everyone together under one roof (even if you’re gathering outdoors!). Beyond that, there are several ways to accessorize, adorn, and entertain to ensure it’s a celebration your guests won’t soon forget.
A few ideas for a one-of-a-kind gathering:
Whether it’s been two months or two years since you last saw each other, some of your attendees may need a little help loosening up. Kicking things off with a team-based sport is easy to get the banter going. If athletics aren’t your thing, a family-wide game of telephone is virtually guaranteed to make even the grumpiest guest crack a smile. Or branch your family tree lines with a game of 21 Questions.
Homemade food is one thing, but handcrafted decorations can go a long way, too. They could be as simple as family photos hung from a tree (a literal family tree!), or as complex as a centerpiece featuring carefully arranged bits and bobbles from your family’s history.
A playlist for the ages
You could put on whatever playlist you’re in the mood for… or you could turn the tunes into a group effort. Have each guest request a few songs of their choice (from their heyday, if that’s the theme!); the more danceable, the better. If an impromptu dance contest breaks out, be sure to have the cameras rolling.
When all is said and done, the memories will live on. Still, it would be nice to commemorate them in a tangible way. Do so by filling a scrapbook with photos new and old, family recipes, and memorable stories and quotes from the day. Make or print copies for everyone and sign them—high school yearbook style!
What are some fun family reunion games?
Several fun family reunion ideas revolve around games. Some are high-intensity matches while others won’t require you to move from the couch. Pick some of each so that guests of all ages, abilities, and energy levels can take part in the action.
Let’s look at a couple of family reunion activities that will get both young and old involved.
Charades is one of those games no one wants to play until they realize how much fun it is in the middle of a round. The secret ingredient: a brave family member willing to volunteer to go first and make the grumblers laugh. It’s the perfect cocktail for family-exclusive inside jokes, and it doesn’t require any props or purchases.
Giant yard and board games
What’s funnier than a Connect Four loss against a grade-schooler? Answer: A Connect Four loss against a grade-schooler writ large. Giant yard and board games ensure all eyes are on the players’ super-sized triumphs and tribulations. From cornhole to Jenga to checkers, there’s something for everyone to love.
Have a cousin you consider a sibling? An aunt or uncle that’s been like another parent to you? Family trivia is the perfect way to find out how close you really are to them. Study up on favorite colors, vacation memories, and of course, love lives (“Grandma dated who?!”).
Assuming you haven’t seen your family in a while, don’t let those juggling skills atrophy—show off a little. Anyone claiming they’re talentless (surely untrue) or too shy to perform can form the judges’ panel. The winner gets to learn the delicious secret behind that meatloaf. Yes, we’re still dying to know.
Nothing gets the blood pumping quite like a frantic scavenger hunt—especially if you’re competing against your entire extended family. The best part is that you can structure it around the reunion’s theme. So… baby pictures everywhere?
How do you invite family members to a reunion?
Who you choose to invite is up to you. In terms of information on the card, keep it simple and concise with things like:
— Date, time, and location
— What family members should bring
— RSVP request
The specifics of family reunion invitation wording can be challenging. But have fun with them. It’s your first chance to show your extended family that they’re in for a great time.
“White T-Shirt” by Paperless Post.
– Custom t-shirt, custom card: Thinking about ordering matching t-shirts for the family? Hint at it with this fun card and the words:
THE 5TH ANNUAL
ADDAMS FAMILY REUNION
Sunday, September 18th
10 Palmer Square East
Westfield, New Jersey
“Bold Line Invitations” by The Indigo Bunting for Paperless Post.
– Minimalist and to-the-point: Keep it simple with a black and white invite and the words:
PLEASE JOIN US FOR OUR
5TH ANNUAL FAMILY REUNION
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 18TH AT 4PM
“Ivory Plain” by Paperless Post.
– The smell of barbecue: This card’s all about the three F’s: food, family, and fun. Pair it with wording such as:
MORTICIA AND GOMEZ
INVITE YOU TO
THE 5TH ANNUAL
September 18th at 4pm
0001 Cemetery Lane
Westfield, New Jersey
Plan a reunion to remember with Paperless Post
Big or small, your family reunion starts with a memorable invitation. With Paperless Post, you can customize reunion invitations around your family’s quirks and interests. What’s more, you can seamlessly import your guest list, track everything from RSVPs to song requests, and keep a log of any dietary restrictions. It’s never been easier to get everyone back together.
Memory-making starts here.